"One of the things Duke fans don't get to do anymore, and really haven't been able to do since 1991, is to thoroughly enjoy the role of underdogs. Don't get us wrong, it's better to win than for winning to be a surprise. But when you see the joy at a Georgetown...it's hard not to appreciate it and to be happy for that team. And we are sincerely happy for Georgetown and especially for Coach Thompson, a young coach who we have followed since he turned in a very impressive stint at Princeton. It's his biggest win so far, but it's not going to be his last one."--Duke Basketball Report, Jan. 22, 2006
Georgetown fans will long remember watching the Hoyas upset #1-ranked Duke on Jan. 21, 2006. Columnist John Hawkes looks back from a student's perspective in this memorable 2007 article at HoyaSaxa.com.
"Team Moderate Temperature (and Other Stories from January 21, 2006)"
The 4AM Fight Song
Bridget Geraghty is rather peppy for 4:00am.
She stands before a giant purple awning labeled "F STREET ENTRANCE," flailing her arms wildly as she conducts the second verse of the Georgetown Fight Song. A touch off rhythm, she more than makes up for it in volume.
One of the organizing principles of the new Hoya Blue regime that took over the club in May 2005 was to establish common traditions among Georgetown students. The most visible of these has always been the "We Are Georgetown" student section t-shirt--which most of the chorus singing the Fight Song are sporting tonight under several layers of thermal outerwear. Where the WAG shirt was a product of ingenuity and good timing--a snappy looking shirt featuring a series of well-received motivational quotes--Bridget has established her own tradition on this night through sheer brute force.
"FIVE MINUTES TO GO UNTIL THE 4AM FIGHT SONG!!"
The echo bounced along the empty streets of Chinatown, as a dozen or so weary Hoya die-hards poked their heads out from the comfort and warmth of their sleeping bags.
Five hours ago, while unpacking snacks, extra pairs of gloves, and a case of Red Bull, Bridget proclaimed that every hour, on the hour, the assembled Hoya Blue members camping out in front of the MCI Center on the night before Georgetown's game against the undefeated #1-ranked Duke Blue Devils would sing the Georgetown Fight Song.
The subsequent 300 minutes have been a whirlwind of cheers, caffeine, and interesting characters. Bridget's rundown of the visitors to the F Street campground includes "the bum who wrote a book, another who conned us into giving him WAG shirts, the couple with the guy who clearly wasn't getting any that night, and the Metro [officer] who woke everyone up around 4:30 by screaming 'Go Terps'!"
If there has been one thing that has reliably passed the time however, it is Bridget's top-of-her-lungs countdown to the hourly Fight Song.
At midnight, a revved up chorus of two dozen belted out a raucous rendition that surely could have been heard at campus parties ongoing across the Georgetown campus three miles away.
At 1:00am, another spirited verse or two, the campground still brimming with adrenaline and whatever soda remained from earlier CVS runs.
At 2:00am, several students jump up and down to the beat, perhaps to keep themselves both warm and awake.
At 3:00am, the novelty starts to wear off.
By 4:00am, Bridget is conducting a chorus of four--separated from their impromptu Yell Leader by a row of half a dozen co-eds dozing off on the sidewalk. As I snap a picture of "the 4:00am rendition," one girl sits up for a brief moment, time enough to stare daggers at me--she's clearly not a morning person--but, curiously, also to raise one arm to salute the yell of all the yells, the yell that wins the day, before she passes out again.
Now that's dedication.
I stick my camera back in my pocket and head back to my living quarters for the night--a box of We Are Georgetown shirts perched against the entrance way to the MCI Center. I'll spend a total of fourteen sleepless hours on the night before the most important Georgetown basketball game since I came to Washington, DC in a ten-yard radius surrounding the big purple F STREET ENTRANCE sign. Hundreds of students will join me soon in line, all of us unknowingly approaching the greatest day in our lives as Georgetown basketball fans. But for now I've got more important things on my mind...
...59 MINUTES UNTIL THE 5:00AM FIGHT SONG!!!.
Team Moderate Temperature
You're not going on this campout!
Steve Medlock is surprised to see me.
Why are you going on this campout?!?
I'm an old man in these parts--23 years old, in my second year of graduate school at The George Washington University for goodness sake! I remember Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje! I come from a pre-Clydes-in-Chinatown era! Craig Esherick was once my Homeboy!
With my advancing age comes the realization that there just aren't going to be many more opportunities in my lifetime to camp out on a downtown sidewalk with a bunch of people whose camping supplies include face paint and blue wigs.
The final game home game I attended during my sophomore year at Georgetown was a 75-74 loss to UConn--the infamous game highlighted by Craig Esherick's curious decision not to foul the Huskies' on their final possession despite trailing by a point and facing a shot clock differential of just under five seconds. As the final buzzer sounded--predictably without Georgetown getting off a final shot--I overheard a fan in front of me mutter something along the lines of "I can't believe this is how it ends--my last game in the student section."
I thought about that kid two seasons later--when my four years as a student fan ended in heartbreak (on Gerry McNamara's buzzer-beating three pointer) and resignation (a double-digit loss to a Top 5 Pitt team that was clearly out of our league). I felt his pain on that night in February 2002--but until I walked out of the MCI Center after the Pitt loss I hadn't truly understood the meaning of what he was saying. The experience of a student basketball fan is, in my view, one of the most fun and often rewarding parts of the college experience. It is also one of the most fleeting...and most fickle. The promise of a Sweet 16 can just as easily turn into the pain of a declined NIT bid...or no tournament invite altogether.
At the same time, the horror of a McNamara buzzer beater may be exorcised with a transcendent rout of his Orangemen two years later. An NIT bid and a home victory can lead Georgetown and its fans on the road back to the Sweet 16 the following season. And a lethargic, disjointed three point victory over Big East cellar dweller South Florida on a Tuesday can lead...
You just never know.
I'd been somewhat fortunate to have connections in the ticket office that allowed me to purchase student tickets the following two seasons, but I knew that my time as a "student" fan was ticking away. During what would be my final season as a "student," I resolved to show up early for every game, to take every Hoya Blue road trip, to never waste an opportunity for a great experience as a Hoya basketball fan.
Even if it meant sleeping on a sidewalk in Chinatown.
Actually, especially if it meant sleeping on a sidewalk in Chinatown.
So at around 9:30pm on the night of January 20th, 2006, twenty or so Georgetown basketball fans and one old man pile into the Dupont Circle GUTS bus carrying sleeping bags, half a dozen boxes of We Are Georgetown shirts, and a collective dream that in eighteen hours, they will have seen their heroes in Blue and Gray slay the evil dragon that is Duke University.
And also, that they won't have frozen to death.
Fortunately, luck is on the side of the intrepid campers tonight. Leaving campus the weather is downright balmy for a mid-January evening in Washington D.C. During the crisp D.C. night, the temperature will never dip below the mid 40's and only a slight breeze will be felt on F Street.
The campers on this night are actually following in the footsteps of another group of fans who'd slept outside the F Street Entrance prior to Georgetown's game against Duke in January 2004. Owing to the freezing temperatures and harsh conditions, they'd dubbed themselves "Team Ice Cold"--a moniker oft repeated throughout the night as Team Ice Cold veteran and Hoya Blue President Kurt Muhlbauer openly recalled how awesome the experience had been.
Never one to waste an opportunity to tweak Kurt's over-zealous fandom, I quickly dub our group "Team Moderate Temperature".
Arriving at the Dupont GUTS bus stop, we're now faced with a dilemma--how do you move twenty persons' camping supplies along with most of Hoya Blue's t-shirt stash through one of DC's busiest neighborhoods on a Friday night. Those half dozen boxes prove to be a challenge--heavy enough to make one pause every twenty yards or so (including in oncoming traffic), awkwardly shaped enough to make a steady grip almost impossible.
Naturally, at least two boxes are left to teams of two small girls.
I manage to prop my box against the railing of the escalator headed down to the Red Line platform, before setting it on a short retaining wall. As I lean against the box to rest I hear an awkward screeching noise behind me. A young lady--judging by her club outfit and heels she's headed to a far classier place than the sidewalk on F Street--has taken a header from about three stairs up the escalator. I turn about a quarter of the way around before she plows into me, almost whipping my legs out from under me.
It's not the last time in the next 18 hours that somebody will fall on me.
The HO-YA SA-XA Girls
I am not a media whore.
In fact, I make a concerted effort to hide from the cameramen at the Verizon Center. My greatest fear in life isn't dying, but rather that I'll be Fan #2 in the Fan of the Game contest and lose to an 8-year old with a cute sign about Tyler Crawford or Georgetown's defensive intensity.
That being said, I've managed over a few dozen re-viewings of the game to count nine separate occasions in which I appear in a camera shot during CBS television's broadcast of the game. In addition, I can recall numerous appearances on the MCI Center's Jumbotron.
This of course is entirely the product of dumb luck or fortuitous placement, depending on your perspective.
I'm standing in the second row of the student section near the Duke bench, a shade to the left (from my perspective) of the basket support. In front of me is F Street Camper Peter Keszler, wearing a half gray, half blue face paint and blue wig combination that makes him look like a demented clown. Behind me a student sports a white Mike Sweetney jersey--the same color combination Georgetown wore when they lost 85-66 to Duke at MCI two seasons ago (without Sweetney).
To my front right though are the primary reasons for my sudden increase in accidental camera attention later this afternoon--four female Georgetown fans in tube socks and sports bras, the phrase HO-YA-SA-XA written out across their midriffs.
Nobody besides my mother was paying attention to me in that closeup.
If you attend enough Georgetown basketball games and have a relatively consistent seat choice, you get to "know" most of the students who sit in your vicinity. This knowledge covers a wide range of familiarity--from "Hey, you're that guy who lives across the hall from me!" to "Hey, I saw you at a party last weekend!" to "Hey...ummmm, nice wig!"
Basketball is the great social equalizer at Georgetown I'm convinced. Sure, any freshman flock with an inquisitive nature and a thirst for alcohol is bound to find that Rooftop party in Village A. But the average Joe Freshman Hoya social maladroit with his awkward hair, clumsy appearance, and general penchant for yelling at inappropriate times in large public crowds is much more likely to make (and be a functional contributor in) the second row at a basketball game than second base somewhere in Henle on a Saturday night.
And nothing makes for good friendships like finding out you have something in common.
I can honestly say I've probably made a few dozen friends from my years at Georgetown primarily because of the student section at basketball games. More significant at times, though, are the hundreds of students I "know" and have known for years purely by recognition as "Mr. and Mrs. Phatty," "the Drunk Leprechaun," "the Cop from the Notre Dame game," and on this occasion, "J.J.'s Boy Toy".
And the HO-YA-SA-XA girls.
One of my favorite student section moments came at the end of the aforementioned Georgetown-UConn game in 2002. During the final TV timeout, a fan in front of me--the same one that later couldn't believe his student section career had ended like that--had turned in my direction, and I happened to catch his eye.
"Hey...you're that kid from my theology class!"
In the final tumultuous minutes of that game, we high-fived each other a few times, each one punctuated with "YEAH! KID FROM MY THEOLOGY CLASS!" I'd never spoken to the kid before and haven't since that game. But for one brief but random moment we knew each other like best friends.
Sitting to my right at the Duke game is a girl--average height and build, brown hair, nothing remarkable about her besides HOYA written in face paint across her cheeks. She's the kind of person I'd probably walk past every day on campus and scarcely take notice of. To this day, I don't know her name, I haven't seen her again, and I might not recognize her if she walked up to me Wednesday night at the Depaul game.
On this one tumultuous day in the student section though, during the most pressure-packed games experience I've had in six years, it's as if we've been best friends for years.
One of my favorite sports stories involves a man nicknamed "Joe Cool" for his grace under pressure in big games--former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Joe Montana. With three minutes and twenty seconds remaining in Super Bowl XXIII, the 49ers trailed the Cincinnati Bengals by three points, and were 92 yards away from the end zone. As the 49ers offense took the field for their final drive, fraught with nervous energy and with a Super Bowl title in the balance, Montana turned to offensive tackle Harris Barton, pointed into the stands, and asked:
"Isn't that John Candy?"
Two minutes and forty-six seconds later, Montana capped off a flawless scoring drive with a game-winning touchdown pass to John Taylor.
A decade and a half later, I've built up sixteen hours worth of nervous energy that has yet to dissipate four minutes into the first half. As I'm wiping the perspiration away from my forehead, slouched forward in my seat, the girl to my right taps me on the shoulder and says:
"Hey, did you see St. John's is beating Pitt right now?"
For some reason, those were the magic words that finally made me crack a smile and loosen up.
"Hmmm...what a weird day this is, huh?"
Throughout the remainder of the first half, which ended with Georgetown up 42-28, she and I would glance up at the scoreboard above Georgetown's tunnel every few minutes and wonder whether the Red Storm could hold on. In a weird way, following a narrow upset victory hundreds of miles of away in New York kept us from stressing out over whether the Hoyas could hold on to their own lead and spring a monumental upset on the court a few feet away from us.
By halftime, St. John's had pulled out a 55-50 win, knocking off one of the three remaining unbeaten teams in the nation.
And with Georgetown on the verge of knocking off the second, I was suddenly as cool and confident as the Hoya players on the court.
The Infamous Blurry Picture
Last month, Evan Chvotkin posted a picture of me on Facebook.
A Hoop Club Member sitting in the upper deck of the MCI Center had given Evan a photo he snapped of dozens of jubilant Georgetown students crowded against the scorer's table in the madness that followed the final buzzer. For all of the pictures, videos, Facebook albums, and murals out there chronicling the whirlwind aftermath of the Georgetown-Duke game, this was the first shot I'd seen from that angle.
I had to roll over the photo tag to figure out where I was in the veritable Where's Waldo scene that was the GU-Duke court rush as seen from the 400 level. Turns out, I'm the only fan in the photo that isn't standing.
"In my role as statistician," Evan says, "I am to provide meaningful statistics relating to that point in the game. I knew as the clock ran down under a minute that my job was reduced to the rank of spotter, as all the action currently happening on the court was in essence the most important part of the game."
Across the court from Evan, I was having trouble spotting much on the court as the clock ran down under sixty seconds. Minutes earlier, the crush of students descending from the upper rows had squeezed me (and the HO-YA-SA-XA girls) out of the second row and onto the edge of the court behind the basket. Two thoughts occurred to me standing on the floor at that moment:
First, I had to capture this moment however I could. So as Georgetown was toeing the line for the series of free throws that would hopefully ice the game, I was sticking my camera out in every conceivable direction, trying to get as much of the waiting crowd as possible into a single shot.
Second, I really wished I hadn't left my jackets on my chair. I'd rushed the court at the MCI Center on three previous occasions--after victories over Syracuse in 2001 and 2002, and 363 days earlier on January 23, 2005 when Roy Hibbert's dunk at the buzzer defeated Notre Dame. It took me until I'd seen several replays of the latter occasion to consider...hmmm, a lot of students put their jackets on before they rush the court. I guess that's to keep their stuff from being stolen.
As Jon Wallace stepped to the free throw line with Georgetown leading 86-84 with 6.4 seconds to go in the game, Evan Chvotkin double-checked his computer to make sure he was still capturing his father's audio recording. Meanwhile, across the court and with my view blocked, I stared straight up at the Jumbotron just in time to see Jon Wallace's second free throw rattle in and out.
When the final play worked its way across the timeline, Evan found his view blocked by the crowd of people along the sideline. Fully on the parquet court now, for a brief second the crowd in front of me parted just as Greg Paulus lost control of the basketball.
"Stolen away by the Hoyas!" yelled Evan's father Rich into the Sportstalk 980 microphone.
"They did it!" I yelled at no one in particular.
The next five minutes or so are a blur...a standout moment coming within seconds of my reaching center court, when Josh Thornton became the second person in 18 hours to fall onto me. After rescuing Josh from being swallowed by the Sea of Gray, I found myself pressed against the scorer's table, at the feet of the press photographers who would take many of the famous pictures passed around the Hoya community over the next few weeks. I liked to joke at the time when people asked me where I was in the Sports Illustrated photograph featuring Roy Hibbert in a mob of students--there I am, two inches below the page.
"From there," Evan says about the aftermath of the court rush, "my main concern was damage control." Evan and Sportstalk 980's On-Site Engineer Pat Malley were assigned to play defense for the Sportstalk 980 microphone, each guarding one side of Rich Chvotkin to make sure nobody jumped the table and interrupted his broadcast.
I made a new friend at the Duke game. His name is Evan Chvotkin.
We met when he successfully defended me from high-fiving his father while he was still on the air finishing his post-game report.
As I walked back past Evan, I crossed paths with Darrell Owens, who was milling around on the other side of the scorer's table.
And so, in the chaos of the Great Duke Court-Rush of 2006, I laid flat on my belly on the scorer's table a few feet from Rich Chvotkin, still finishing his post-game report, and took a horribly blurry but soon-to-be-infamous photo of Darrell Owens and Evan Chvotkin.
When I returned to the post-apocalyptic battle scene that was formerly the student section, I sat down in a partially-destroyed chair missing one armrest and hugged every person I knew (or "knew") that came off the court past me. A quick glance to my left brought a welcome sight--there, in a pile of what must have been a dozen twisted and mangled metal, a single purple chair stood upright.
On the back where my two jackets, exactly as I'd left them.
The Big Flag
Matt Kamenski single-handedly won the Georgetown-Duke game for the Hoyas.
What's even more amazing--he did it by accident.
Two months earlier, in the moments prior to Georgetown's Thanksgiving weekend game against Vanderbilt at the MCI Center, Matt had been selected from an impromptu list of three candidates--the interview went something like "Hey, we need somebody to do this"--to run out from the home tunnel carrying a large blue and white flag with the Block G logo on it prior to games.
In that moment, a cult figure was born--a blue fro wig and aviator-wearing phenomenon known as the Flag Man with fans across the DC area and a surrogate as far away as Nevada.
It was a gradual rise from cult status to widespread popularity however. "There were some times," Matt remembers about the early games in the 2005-2006 season, "where it seemed like there was barely a peep from a half-empty arena."
On the Tuesday prior to the Duke game, the Hoyas escaped with a 50-47 victory over Big East basement dweller South Florida before a lethargic MCI crowd of only 5,071. Legitimate questions abounded after the narrow win--which Georgetown team would show up on Saturday, and which group of Georgetown fans would be there to watch them?
Neither took very long to be answered.
"I get into a cab with [then-Hoya Blue Treasurer] Tom Ryan around 9:30am for a 1:30pm game, and there are already a lot of people milling around campus wearing "We Are Georgetown" shirts getting ready for the game," Matt recalls.
Arriving at F Street over three and a half hours before tipoff, Matt and Tom find a mob scene of students gathered around the main entrance to the Arena, serenading fans as they walk past.
"We're putting down cheer sheets on the student section seats and can hear 'Hoya Saxa' and 'We Are Georgetown' cheers from the mob that is now inside the arena."
Roughly four times the number of fans who attended Tuesdays game pack the MCI Center for the Duke contest, creating a electric atmosphere that could literally be felt by the Flag Man as he made his first appearance during the opening layup lines.
Matt's routine includes three appearances with the Big Flag per game, the last of which always occurred during the final television timeout of the second half. With the game drawing to a close, and Duke drawing ever-closer to the Hoyas, Matt preps for his final run during what he thinks is the under-four minute media timeout.
In fact, Duke center Shelden Williams has called a thirty second timeout on a loose ball with 3:04 to go and Georgetown leading 76-72.
"Because of that," Matt says, "because I ran out with the flag at the wrong time, it was just me, the flag and the court--no cheerleaders, just me there and 20,000 people cheering me on. I'll never forget that. It was like walking on air at that moment."
"[Athletic Department employee] Bryan Weir told me after the game at Tombs that he thought my flag run-out at that time was one of the game's turning points--it was a nervous point in the game, and it got the crowd fired up again."
So if you ever want to see the turning point that helped Georgetown beat Duke, the best place to find it isn't by fast forwarding through your taped copy of the CBS broadcast. All you have to do is look at your 2006-2007 season ticket package, the cover of which features a photo of the Flag Man during his infamous mis-timed routine.
The Other Infamous Blurry Photo
Being a game recapper whose thoughts about each contest are widely read in the Hoyatalk and Hoya Blue communities has interesting side effects from time to time. One of the more intriguing for me has been the role of music in my Non-Game Observations section.
Thanks to a running Non-Game Observation during this season, I've become known in Hoya Blue circles as the guy who really hates Zombie Nation (it's a relief to have gotten past being the guy who hates the Black Eyed Peas). I was in attendance on Friday evening with Hoya Blue for Georgetown's game at the Continental Airlines Arena, when during the Seton Hall introductions, what should be the accompanying music but the Zombie Nation song. Instantly, a dozen or so fans glanced at me and laughed as I ripped off my hat in disgust.
In addition to being linked to Fergie and Kernkraft 400, to this day, every time I'm at a party or in public with members of Hoya Blue and an Outkast song comes on, I get several mentions of "Hey John! It's your favorite group!" This of course is a consequence of another recurring Non-Game Observation from last season in which I reviewed the Outkast albums I listened to on the way to games.
The relationship of Outkast and Hoya basketball for me has something of a history. At a Hoya Blue party last weekend, as Outkast's "So Fresh So Clean" played on the sound system, I was again reminded of not only their "favorite group" status but also that the song happens to be my favorite.
Why though, a Hoya Blue member asked me. It's such a generic sounding song!
The first time I rushed the court at a Georgetown game was on February 24, 2001 after the Hoyas defeated #17 Syracuse 72-61. It remains to this day the only in-person experience I've had at a Georgetown game that could come close to rivaling the victory over Duke.
I left the MCI Center that day with my friend Jon and his sister. Driving through the throngs of Hoya supporters in Chinatown, the first song that came on the car radio was a song I'd never heard until that moment, but that instantly became both a personal favorite and inextricably linked to that Syracuse game each time I listen to it:
So Fresh, So Clean.
I thought about that as I left the MCI Center after the Duke game. As I walked out onto the sidewalk to find the line of busses back to campus, I caught a faint tune on a loudspeaker in some indeterminate location--P.O.D.'s "Alive". Not likely to be as personally iconic as "So Fresh, So Clean," but a fitting description indeed of Hoya fans on this day.
"Once we got into the 'Center Formerly Known as MCI'," recalls F Street Camper Michelle Tessier, "I don't think I've ever felt so tired--hours of lying on cold concrete with 4 other people using your body as a pillow isn't exactly a comfortable way to spend the night, and I got absolutely no sleep."
"But once the players started warming up, I instantly had a rush of energy again."
Another camper, Dmitriy Zakharov, had his rejuvenating moment on the Chinatown Metro platform after the game, where he helped out with impromptu sales of We Are Georgetown shirts to fired-up Hoya fans making their way home from the game.
"Standing on that train, army boots resting on a box of We Are Georgetown t-shirts, mouth so dry I could barely talk, I felt on top of the world," he remembers, "For a few hours, all my cares, troubles, concerns, and petty tragedies were a world away."
The second time I rushed the court as a Georgetown fan was January 28, 2002 after the Hoyas took down #15 Syracuse 75-60. On the way home, amongst the jubilation on the packed school bus winding its way through Chinatown, I remember sticking my blue Georgetown hat out of the window and leading cheers with the fans on the sidewalk as we passed.
After the Duke game, I found myself again on a school bus back to campus. As the overflow throng beat on the metal roof of the bus and screamed out "Hey! Did you hear? Georgetown BEAT DUKE!!" to tourists the length of Constitution Avenue, I once again stuck my now-faded-and-purple Georgetown hat out the window and pointed triumphantly to the G logo.
Back on the Hilltop, the campus had come alive. In a fortuitous move, The Hoya had printed a special commemorative insert reading BEAT DUKE that was placed in copies of the paper on every student section seat prior to the game. As my girlfriend and I walked out to Healy Circle to meet Stephen Fraser and Raymond Borgone for dinner--we'd basically extended an open invitation to the entire bus as I recall--we were met with an amazing sight. Walking past Village C, New South, and Village A, those BEAT DUKE signs were popping up in windows and corridors, many with a small handwritten addition:
WE BEAT DUKE
Those signs more than anything else to me stand out as the single most memorable image of that day. On our way back from dinner, my girlfriend made sure to take a picture of one of the signs we'd seen before we left campus.
A few hours later, that photo of the John Carroll statue in Healy Circle proclaiming WE BEAT DUKE graced the front page of HoyaSaxa.com.
In nearly two years of following the new Hoya Blue regime, this is the best attended pre-game event I've seen for a football game. Yet there's something a bit off about the direction this football tailgate is heading. It starts when AC/DC is replaced by another staple of Hoya pre-game events--nodak89. It continues as now, every few passes or so we throw out on the deck, we're drawn back to Kurt and Matt's patio door, where a cheer goes up from the party-goers crowded in front of the living room television. A few passes...Brandon Bowman converts a reverse dunk...a few more fade routes...Jon Wallace pulls off the spin move...a heroic rescue of the football off the 300-level roof...Ashanti Cook's deep three pointer.
Eight and a half months later, nothing sets a Georgetown football tailgate off the hook like the basketball team beating Duke.--Generation Burton, "Shotgun Draw!"
If the WE BEAT DUKE sign is the most iconic image of January 21, 2006, next in line might be a DVD.
From impromptu game watches in campus lounges and apartment living rooms to roadtrips to NSO tables and the above football tailgate, the tape of Georgetown defeating Duke has been arguably Hoya Blue's go-to advertisement for a full year.
There's an obvious reason for this. As Hoya Blue's Vice President Michael R. Segner puts it, "The game tape has been instrumental as something to throw on the TV that you know everyone will be interested in at [Hoya Blue] functions."
There can be no denying this fact--I've been to enough Hoya Blue events in the past year to know that they'd get a massive crowd if they announced the showing of the game anywhere on campus an hour from now.
But to leave this as the primary purpose for the game tape's existence--I've admittedly done this in my writing on this subject in the past, including the Generation Burton columns that include the above quote--neglects a significant factor about Hoya fandom.
"If someone asks us, 'Why should I join Hoya Blue?'" Matt Kamenski tells me, "we can basically just show him that game and that will be a sufficient answer. Everything that Hoya Blue and Georgetown is about can be seen in that DVD."
When they advertise Hoya Blue with the Duke game tape, I've learned from the club's core members, what they're promoting isn't Georgetown basketball per se. They aren't "selling" students on the idea that if you buy season tickets, this is what is going to happen at games. They aren't trying to drum up excitement for a mediocre draw like a football game on a cold overcast afternoon.
Rather, the legacy of the Duke game tape is that it is an example of what being a Georgetown fan is all about--to show up en masse to games, cheer one's heart out, and leave with a boatload of memories and experiences that have you coming back for four straight years.
It actually has nothing to do with Duke.
One of the Hoya Blue freshmen that attended the football tailgate and saw the Duke tape was Anna Selling. When I asked her recently what she thought of the tape, her response (and I should note, the response of every other freshman I asked this question of) had very little to do with the game itself, but everything to do with being a member of Hoya Blue.
"The intensity and emotion of the Hoya fans really moves me," Anna told me, "I love the passion that Georgetown students have for this game, and this game really has me thinking that the Hoyas can beat any team at any given time."
I decided to watch this season's Georgetown-Duke game at a Hoya Blue event--you just never know, after all. Obviously things didn't work out the same way as last January--nor had the season worked out especially well to that point, as the Hoyas were on the verge of tumbling from the Top 25. On the way out of the Game Watch, after encountering some--shall we say, angrily disappointed--freshmen fans, Michael R. Segner turned to me and said: "Well, our job just got harder."
Talking to members of Hoya Blue, there seems to be a rough consensus that the Duke game tape probably lost its effectiveness as a promotional tool on the night of December 2, 2006.
All the same, I hope Hoya Blue members get together and watch it today, even if it's not an official event. I think even if the game is now relegated to "memory" status--it's a great memory...and it was a great promotional tool in its time.
So a year later, what is the lasting legacy of the day Flag Man Matt Kamenski calls "a dream turned into reality?"
And what do we do as Hoya fans now that the dream has long been over?
I'd like to think that the legacy of Georgetown beating Duke will have nothing to do with the game itself. In fact, this column was a conscious attempt to write about the game without writing anything about the actual game.
No Hoya fan who was at the MCI Center on January 21, 2006 or watched, listened, or read about it will ever forget that day. Indeed, there are dozens of individual moments from the game that will be ingrained in my memory for years to come.
But there are also dozens of individual people who I interacted with at some point over the twenty fours hours between 9:00pm on January 20 and 9:00pm on January 21 that I'll never forget, and made the experience truly memorable.
For me anyways, the important characters in the Georgetown-Duke game aren't Jonathan Wallace, Jeff Green, Darrell Owens, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bowman, and Ashanti Cook. They're the ones listed in this column--Bridget the 4am Fight Song leader, Matt the Flag Man, Evan Chvotkin the defender of the Sportstalk 980 microphone, the HO-YA-SA-XA girls, Ray and Steve from the bus ride home, and every person who I camped out with on F Street just to name a few.
Everyone takes a slightly different approach to their personal legacy of the Duke game.
"Even before the game started," Michelle Tessier recalls, "I felt really happy to be a fan, just sitting with everyone and talking in the freezing cold."
Every single person who submitted responses to my question about their memories of the day of the Duke game for this column--even those who suggested they didn't really have anything special that stood out--told at least one unique story of the never-done-before-and-never-will-again variety. It's the reason people are drawn to do crazy things like paint their faces, wear wigs, go on roadtrips, or camp out in the cold--they've never done it before, and they may never get a chance to again.
The campout was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (okay, unless you were a member of Team Ice Cold like Kurt), but it also had a practical application to the everyday operations of Hoya Blue.
"The fact that someone could be willing to camp out in front of MCI and yet not be regularly involved with Hoya Blue came as a shock to me," Dmitriy Zakharov told me, adding that it "led me to conclude that there were still plenty of people out there who could become dedicated additions to the team."
The Duke victory and the basketball team's subsequent run to the Sweet 16 are primary factors in the remarkable increase in student season ticket sales for the 2006-2007 basketball season, as well as the tremendous upsurge in Hoya Blue membership among freshmen. But this is hardly a bandwagon phenomenon--and the reason has a lot to do with the campout.
Hoya Blue as it now exists has a far greater mission than merely improvement attendance at sporting events. The club now employs an Events Officer and Promotions Officer tasked with coming up with a running activities, Game Watches, campouts--anything that will generate interest among student fans. To be in Hoya Blue now means something entirely different from when I was a member several years ago. It isn't so much a club or an activity as much as--to use the parlance of some members--an experience.
When I was in Hoya Blue, I always thought the best part was going to games and having a slightly larger section of students. Hoya Blue still does this, and I would say does it better than ever before. But to hear one freshman member, Ryan Rudzinski, say that "easily the best part about being in Hoya Blue has been the people" says a great deal about the connections that the club is making with their events that go far beyond the games themselves.
The Duke game is the most memorable sporting event I've personally attended, and a day I'll never forget. Yet somehow this pales in comparison to the impact Georgetown's victory had on freshman Kasper Statz.
"That game is special to me," Kasper wrote me, "because it changed my future."
In the midst of an anxiety-riddled decision about where to attend college, Kasper had two frontrunners--Georgetown and Duke.
"And when I found out that my two schools would be playing each other, I knew that this would be a deciding time."
A dedicated sports fan--and I might add the owner of one of the most hideous wigs I've ever seen at a Georgetown basketball game--one of the questions Kasper had about his future college was whether it would have good sports teams and a strong fan culture. Already familiar with Duke's traditions thanks to the saturation coverage afforded the school and its fans by ESPN, Kasper looked at this game as something of a trial run for Georgetown. What he saw was an exciting, physical game in a raucous, sold out NBA Arena that he told me reminded him of old Chicago Bulls games he'd attended as a kid. And he was hooked.
"It was the little things like the 'God's On Our Side' signs or the fact that the first guy to rush the court was in a wheelchair showed me that Georgetown is different from other schools: it is professional, tough as hell, energetic and crazy, yet unified and inclusive."
So what's the relevance of 1/21/06 on 1/21/07?
"It was a home game that can't possibly be topped any time soon," Raymond Borgone wrote me, "It was an experience that will last a lifetime, and you're not going to have one of those every year or even every four years."
Indeed, one needs only to consider that the last time Georgetown defeated a #1 ranked opponent prior to Duke was in 1985, before many of the student fans in attendance were born.
After hearing the frustrated freshmen fans bemoan Georgetown's poor start to the 2006-2007 season after the Duke game watch this December, I sarcastically muttered to myself: "Geez, apparently nobody told them that we don't beat Duke every year."
In pointing out that the Duke game tape probably isn't useful as a selling point for Hoya Blue any more, Bridget Geraghty made the observation to me that it's up to "the boys" to give Georgetown fans another highlight or game to remember.
Certainly everyone hopes that they do. But I'd hope it's for a reason other than wanting another notch in the win column or a chance to roadtrip to see the Hoyas play in the NCAA Tournament.
What basketball does for the Georgetown campus at its best is bring students of all backgrounds, interests, and social circles together for one common purpose. A successful basketball team brings ever more people into the fold, and that can only be a good thing for the University as a whole.
The significance of the Duke victory is that it created, in the words of Michael R. Segner, a "watershed moment of self-realization and pride, not just about our basketball team but the greatness of Georgetown as a whole."
The continuing relevance of the Duke victory today is that nearly every student on campus is more likely to believe that such a moment can always be waiting at the next game.
When Bridget Geraghty of 4:00am Fight Song fame got back to campus after the Duke game, she was walking past Leo's and ran into Jeff Green and Tyler Crawford. Still delirious from lack of sleep and the epic game she'd just witnessed, she unthinkingly (as she recalls) went up to Jeff and Tyler, "talking about a mile a minute" and with no voice after a day (and night) of cheering, and recounted how she'd stuck up for them against all the nay-sayers who'd come by the campsite the previous night saying Georgetown had no chance of defeating Duke.
While rattling off a list of her experiences and her undying affection for Georgetown's heroes of the day, Bridget was cut off by Jeff Green:
"Hold up, you camped outside of MCI? It's freezing! Can I give you a hug?"